Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT / friedbits.com
A sunny and very hot South of Florida morning welcomed the 128 Star sailors at Coral Reef Yacht Club for the first day of the 92nd Bacardi Cup.
The regatta is one of the most appreciated competitions in the sailing calendar, with a long and celebrated history starting in Havana, Cuba in 1927. Since then, with only ten boats in the line-up, the Bacardi Cup has grown into one of the world’s major sailing events with peak records of more than 100 entries. In 2018, the Bacardi Cup Organizing Committee extended an invitation beyond the Star Class, to embrace other high-profile one-design fleets, making the Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta one of the most attended spring sailing events. The J/70, Melges 24, Viper 640 and Flying Tiger 7.5 will begin their racing on Thursday, March 7th, but today it was all about the Star Class.
After the skippers briefing, the 64 teams headed to the Biscayne Bay race course for a 11:55 hours start. No surprise the fleet was eager to get going, with PRO Carl Shellbach giving two general recalls before Race 1 got underway. The black flag played its deterrent role and only three boats were over the line, among them Polish Olympic Gold and Star World Champion Mateusz Kusznierewicz, racing with World Champion crew Firthjof Kleen.
The upwind leg opened with a light breeze of 6/7 knots from ashore, with most of the fleet opting for what they predicted was the favourable left side. First to the windward mark was Italy’s Diego Negri with crew Sergio Lambertenghi, winner of the 2018 Bacardi Cup, followed by the Norwegian World Champion Eivind Melleby with Josh Revkin (USA). The two exchanged positions in a tussle to the downwind gate, before Negri/Lambertenghi stepped up their pace to reclaim the advantage in a tricky second upwind leg. Behind, Augie Diaz and Bruno Prada came through, in a masterclass of ‘right place at the right time’ as the wind began its big shift to the right. A few boat lengths into the last leg saw the morning wind drop, giving way to a different breeze from the land to give the race an unexpected reaching finish.
Letting the fleet know they have every intention of defending their 2018 title, Negri and Lambertenghi kept their lead in front of Augie Diaz/Bruno Prada, with Eric Doyle/Payson Infelise finishing in third. After starting strong, Eivind Melleby/Joshua Revkin could only hold onto an eighth place.
“It is such a great feeling to be leading this excellent fleet,” smiled Diego Negri after racing. “The day was really tricky with two pressures fighting each other, so the first half of the race the left side was favorite while on the second half it was the right that ended with a reaching finish. We kept eyes well open, we kept control and we managed to finish with a bullet in a first beautiful race.”
Tonight, teams are guests of Eddie Cutillas at the beautiful Bacardi Building for the traditional welcome cocktail, where the BACARDÍ rum team will greet and host the competitors. BACARDÍ has sponsored the event since its inception in 1927. The nightly parties make sure the fun continues long after the finish line. Next social event will be the Mid-Week Party at Shake-a-Leg Miami on March 6th to mark the half-way stage of the event and the Prize Giving Dinner on Saturday, March 9th.
Before that, tomorrow another sailing day awaits the 64 teams for Race 2 of the 92nd Bacardi Cup, with an 11:55 starting sequence and more head to head battles set to unfold.